A new feature of the Premier League this season is the addition of a (pseudo) winter break, wherein half the league takes the weekend off, then the other half takes the following weekend off (provided they don’t have to play any FA Cup replays) at the start of February. For Chelsea, that means just four games in the next month or so, starting with tomorrow’s trip to Newcastle.
Even better news than this period of much needed rest and recovery after the grueling holiday schedule is that both Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are expected to be back in first-team training after it. Pulisic has played just once since Boxing Day and has started just one of our last six matches thanks to a few muscle concerns, which culminated in the current adductor strain he’s dealing with. Loftus-Cheek, meanwhile, has been out since May and has had to deal with a setback or two in his Achilles rupture recovery. But he’s already back training with the reserves and youth and should hopefully be on the steady road to full health now.
“We would like to think so [that Pulisic will be out for two weeks], which kind of goes towards the break in February which might fall at a nice time and give us a bit more to play with. Hopefully he will be back for the other end of that break. It’s in line with how we expected him to be.”
“[Loftus-Cheek] is actually training now with the Under-16s, with the Under-18s, and progression to the under-23s in a pretty short space of time. the sooner he can be back training with us, the better, but we train with a real intensity. When you’ve been out for a long time, it’s very standard you bring him through the Academy years.
“There’s a different look on Ruben’s face. He is more smiley and happy which I understand. It’s been tough for him. He’s not one who walks around with his head down or creates a negative atmosphere, but it’s a lonely place. That’s for everybody. He’s integrating more towards us which is great news for all of us.
“The player he is, the lad he is, it can be easily forgotten from the outside we have missed a hugely influential player. If he can be training with us after the break, it might still need some competitive games but he might not be far away.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
We’re all very much anticipating the return of Loftus-Cheek, but it will be important to keep expectations in check. As we saw with Callum Hudson-Odoi, who suffered a milder version of the same injury, it can take weeks if not months to even begin to rediscover your skills, confidence, and mental sharpness on the pitch even after the doctor’s pronounce you fully healthy physically. And that’s in the optimistic scenario.
As for Pulisic, who’s now spent each of the last two seasons dealing with several minor-ish injuries, we’ll have to stay extra vigilant and careful, lest he end up becoming defined by such things as Loftus-Cheek unfortunately has so far in his career.